Our Farming Journey: How’d We Get Here?
How did we decide we wanted to be farmers when we grew up? Did we inherit land? Did our parents farm? No and no. So how did two landless, first generationers decide to farm? It’s a somewhat convoluted story, but to give you an idea of who we are, what we do, and what we hope to accomplish with our “bit of earth”, please allow me to tell you our story.
I could go back a long way. Neither set of parents were farmers, but my grandmother grew up on a cotton farm. Cotton was the ‘cash’ crop, but the family raised everything that they ate, what we would now call homesteaders. Mimi always cooked big, delicious, southern meals out of her garden bounty. And I learned from her example that food was a way to minister kindness and love into the soul of another.
Peter didn't grow up on a farm but has always been good with animals, plants and machines. He remembers visiting the Amish farms when he was young and marveling at their simplicity and community support. When he was in highschool he worked on his uncle’s horse farm as well as a neighboring hay, cattle and sod farm during his summers. He learned more on that farm than he probably did in high school and has been farming on and off ever since.
Peter and I married soon after we graduated from college, about 10 years ago. He studied International Studies, business management and Spanish, and I studied Child and Family Development. We were offered positions with the non-profit that I interned with for a summer prior to graduation. This non-profit was in Ooty, India. Our job was to establish the infrastructure of a horse therapy program for victims of human trafficking. In many ways, this was my dream job. I had a fire in my bones to help those affected by this horrific trade, and also a lifetime love for horses. We worked on pasture establishment, fencing, pony training and care, as well as actual horse therapy sessions. A year into this job, my mother’s Multiple Sclerosis started to get worse, so we both believed we should be close to home to help out my family.
We kind of stumbled into farming full time. For some reason upon arrival back to the states, I had this burning desire to get some…. dairy goats. I didn’t really understand it, I just wanted to be around these silly animals. We started working part time on an organic homestead with goats. While working there, I didn’t have any children and had lots of free time to read. I was skimming a TIME magazine article when I read about this crazy farmer named Joel Salatin. This man was farming in Virginia using holistic, regenerative methods to raise animals, produce excellent food, and heal the earth. I was blown away! I thought all egg laying chickens were raised in confinement. I thought cattle were only finished on feedlots. Could agriculture really be practiced in such a way that benefits everyone (people, animals, plants, soil life, the environment, etc?) You mean you could farm like this and make a living?!
So we began milking goats, then moved on to milking sheep and managing egg layers for Many Fold Farm, and after three years there, we started our own farm, Woodsong. Farming, as you guessed it, is really hard work. Some recent statistics from the USDA tell that 80% of farms go out of business after their second year. And only 2% survive to the 5th year. Those are some pretty grim statistics. And I’ll be honest, sometimes it feels like a whole lot of work for not many rewards (monetarily speaking). But we get to feel the therapeutic effects of our hands in the dirt. We get to frolic with the chickens, cows, and pigs, and on our good days, revel in their antics and charm. We get to raise our children wild and free, and teach them to value hard work. I get to teach them in my farmschool homeschool. But also, I get to share this magical place we call our home and farm with you.
So this is my hope and dream for our farm: That just like the children in India, you would find in nature a place that you belong, a place filled with beauty and grace and goodness. We hope to share that in every bite of good food that you put in your mouth. And if you pick up your products from our farm stand (open every Thursday from 9am-8pm), I hope you get a chance to see with your own eyes where your food comes from. Come pet a baby calf, increase your athletic prowess by trying to catch a chicken, ponder quiet ruminations while lounging with our cows. Listen to the frogs singing in the pond, come pick your own flower bouquet (U-pick garden open mid-July).
I pray the natural beauty of the farm is an antidote to the chaotic, hurried pace of our modern life. I pray the beauty is a balm. I pray the food is healing. I pray that in these creatures, in this place, you see the goodness of God.